Bavarian Forest
National Park

print page

Open landscapes

One of the "Schachten" (Photo: Michael Pscheidl)

In the landscapes of the Bohemian Forest only mires and boulder piles composed of large stones have kept the forest at bay by their own force. The beautiful, neglected grasslands and hay fields, which are rich in flowering plants and contain a wealth of insects, are however habitats, that through sheer hard work man has wrested from the forest.

In the valleys around the raised bog complexes along the streams and close to settlements, mostly on the border of the national park, there are the relics of old hay and straw meadows as well as grazing areas, which were extensively used in the past. A feature of particular aesthetic and landscape value are the ‘Schachten’, former grazing areas in high areas of the forest. The mountain peaks jut out partially treeless from the surrounding forested areas. Closely linked here are areas with rock crevice vegetation and dry heath.

Meadows and grazing areas

The inhabitants of the Bohemian Forest endeavoured to acquire a minimum income to secure their existence through cattle rearing, despite the barren soil and the harsh climate. As a consequence of this subsistence farming and insufficient manure the cattle grazing areas became degraded, thinner and in part heath land. With characteristic species such as matgrass (Nardus stricta), Hungarian gentian (Gentiana pannonica), and the endemic, but today very rare Bohemian gentian (gentianella bohemica) they were once formative elements in the landscape of the Bohemian Forest. On the Bavarian side their counterparts are the “Schachten", high altitude, park landscapes with trees, established through grazing. These areas are often enriched with special structures such as boulders, old trees, ant hills, and piles of field stones and dry walls, which form the valuable building blocks of habitats for many insect, bird, reptile and bat species.

Similarly meagre, but as a result of different usage endowed with other species, are the meadows where hay had to be produced to get the cattle through the long winters. Mountain arnica (Arnica montana), buffalo grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum), black rampion (Phyteuma nigrum), sticky catchfly (Lychnis viscaria) and other plants shape the landscape. Wet meadows that were originally cut once late in the year for hay for the cattle, often correspond to the habitat type of purple moor grass meadow, which with species such as its eponymous purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea), great burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis), devil’s-bit (Succisa pratensis), also has its own distinct character.
With the end of these historical forms of farming many of these areas increasingly break down, many typical plant and insect species disappear and the forest tries to re-conquer these areas.

Rocks and heaths

The imposing sea of rocks and boulders on the summit of the Lusen (1373m) and the steep rock faces of the Groβe and Kleine Falkenstein (1313 and 1190m) constitute exceptional habitats in the national park.

The boulder fields are generally not populated by ferns and flowering plants. Very noteworthy however is the population of different lichens, with map lichen (Rhizocarpon geographicum), which is responsible for the yellow and green colouration of the rocks, the most populous and predominant in the ecosystem. Also remarkable is that the full range of ground beetle species is present; these are typical of cold air producing rock fields. The communities of species demonstrate as a result of the extreme conditions at these locations a great independence and a high degree of specialisation.

Areas populated by dwarf shrubs are scattered island-like within the rocks. These mountain heaths are composed of blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) and bog bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum). The presence of rare clubmoss species is limited to locations created by people such as path embankments and former places of extraction.

The rock crevices of steep rock faces are, in contrast to the boulder fields, populated in addition to the lichens also by characteristic fern and flowering plant species such as the common polypody (Polypodium vulgare) and the harebell (Campanula rotundifolia).